‘I cannot believe decision will not be overturned,’ says Keller boss 

The boss of one of the firms working on HS2 has said the decision not to run the railway in to Euston is “bonkers”.

The work at Euston, intended to be the London terminus for the line, was put on hold last March because of rising costs with trains now set to run into Old Oak Common in west London instead when the line eventually opens. But passengers arriving at Old Oak will have to change on to connecting services to get into the middle of the capital.

Michael Speakman, chief executive of ground engineering firm Keller, which has been carrying out work in the Chilterns on the first phase of the railway, said he expected the decision not to run the line into Euston to be overturned. “It’s bonkers,” he said. “They’ve done all the hard work. It’s just a bit daft and beggars belief.”

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The Euston site, pictured last summer, has been cleared ahead of planned building works that have now been put on hold

He said the government’s flip flopping on HS2 contrasted with some other countries and their attitudes to big-tickets schemes.

“Singapore, for example, has a rolling five-year programme of works and they just stick to it. We know what’s coming and they’re knowledgeable buyers. At the other end, there are one or two countries slightly more chaotic than the UK. We’re [the UK} not the worst but we’re not the best.”

Speakman’s comments echo those of others who have queried the Euston decision.

Mark Reynolds, the chief executive of Mace, one of the firms set to build the station, called the decision “absolutely shameful”, while Arcadis chief executive Alan Brookes told Building last year: “I would not start something like that, go as far as you’ve gone and say ‘we’ll leave it at Old Oak Common’. You’ve got to have real access into London.”

>> See also: ‘The design team has gone from 500 to six.’ What HS2 Euston is doing now

The UK accounts for around 3% of Keller’s £2.9bn turnover with more than half its income coming from the US.

Speakman said he didn’t expect this November’s US election to impact workloads. “The market there is really buoyant and is stronger than anywhere else. They are onshoring some critical industries like chip manufacturing and that will keep going for quite a few years.”

Keller turned in a record set of results last year with revenue up 1% to £2.9bn with pre-tax profit up 123% to £126m. Underlying operating margins were up from 3.7% to 6.1% with the firm set to increase its dividend for 2023 by 20% to 45.2p.